Irena Sendler Hoax Debunked
The story of Irena Sendler is one of those complicated stories that has some truth with it, mixed in with a bit of a hoax. Irena Sendlerowa was a woman who worked to help rescue about 2,500 Polish Jews from the Nazi extermination camps. She began her work in social services in 1939 and was a social worker when Nazi Germany attacked. When the Jews were assembled into a ghetto, Irena got fake identification, pretended to be a nurse, and brought medicine, clothing, and food to the people.
She did this for two years. In 1942, the Nazi plan for the Polish Jews became apparent. Rather than standing aside to see these people killed, Irena joined an underground association that began rescuing Jewish children. They would smuggle the kids out of the ghetto in coffins and boxes, sometimes sedating them so they wouldn’t cry. Through a network of basements and secret passages, the children were given non-Jewish identities and protected.
Irena Sendler Was Captured in 1943
After a year full of successes, the Nazis captured Irena and tortured her for information. She refused to disclose who was helping her or the names of the children she had save. At one point, her feet and legs were broken in an attempt to get her to talk. Upon awaking after the intense pain, a Nazi guard told her that he’d been bribed to help her escape. Her name was added to the list of executed prisoners and Irena was able to continue her rescuing efforts.
After the war was over, Irena took the names of the children she had saved and attempted to reunite them with their families. The only problem was that almost all of the children had no family left after the Nazis were done. This meant most of the children would be adopted into Polish families or those who relocated to the new nation of Israel in 1948. All told, Irena and her network is believed to have saved at least 2,500 lives. Some estimates put that number at 3,000 or more.
What Is the Hoax If This Story Is Actually True?
The problem with the story of Irena Sendler that floats around is that she is often described as a candidate to receive the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. The hoax is that the nominations or candidates for each Peace Prize are kept secret for 50 years. This is done to prevent retribution to those who may still be working to achieve peace in an area that would seek vengeance because of the recognition. There is no conclusive way to prove that she would have won the prize.
The foundation of this hoax likely comes from the International Federation of Social Workers, who had campaigned hard for Irena to receive the award. They released a statement that spoke of their deep disappointment that the award was given for work on climate change instead of the dangerous work that was done by Irena during the war.
Although part of the story is a hoax, the good news is that Irena lived to see her work be recognized, even if it didn’t win a prize. Her courage will continue to live on and serve as an inspiration for us all.